Beginner's Telescopes

Astronomy Equipment

This telescope buying guide provides information and equipment listings for all types of refractor and reflector telescopes for all levels, from budding astronomer to the more experienced astronomer looking for a larger, more advanced 'scope.

Binoculars and telescopes and other astronomy equipment and accessories are the core of amateur astronomy. A good pair of binoculars is what introduced me to the pleasures of stargazing many moons ago and only after a couple of years scanning the skies did I graduate to a telescope. That was one of the department store 60mm telescopes we're all warned about, but my folks didn't know any better, and to a 12-year old kid, it opened up the universe.

Telescopes


LookBrand New 1975 Orange Tube Sand Cast Celestron C 8 Telescope
LookBrand New 1975 Orange Tube Sand Cast Celestron C 8 Telescope

$2,499.00
22d 10h 40m remaining
12X50 HD Monoculars Telescope BAK 4 Prism Powerful with Tripods and Phone Holder
12X50 HD Monoculars Telescope BAK 4 Prism Powerful with Tripods and Phone Holder

$18.98
3d 14h 14m remaining
Celestron NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope
Celestron NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope

$250.00
2d 10h 29m remaining
Celestron Starbright XLT Telescope 235mm f 10 Schmidt Cassegrain
Celestron Starbright XLT Telescope 235mm f 10 Schmidt Cassegrain

$405.00 (9 Bids)
2d 13h 33m remaining
Coronado PST Personal Solar Telescope
Coronado PST Personal Solar Telescope

$602.99
27d 1h 19m remaining
Astronomical Reflector Telescope Logic Drive Tripod Newtonian Star Finder Space
Astronomical Reflector Telescope Logic Drive Tripod Newtonian Star Finder Space

$274.99
8d 21h 56m remaining
Astronomical Telescope
Astronomical Telescope

$159.76
11d 8h 53m remaining
Vintage Tasco 762mm Telescope Japan w Camera adapter
Vintage Tasco 762mm Telescope Japan w Camera adapter

$300.00
5d 12h 33m remaining
Celestron NexStar 6 SE 10 Telescope
Celestron NexStar 6 SE 10 Telescope

$497.50
24d 6h 43m remaining

More telescopes here...

While cheap (in every sense of the word) telescopes are still to be found, recent years have seen the introduction of small but very affordable telescopes from manufacturers such as Meade and Celestron and, despite their small size, these telescopes have excellent optics that far outperform the cheap optics in my old 60mm scope from so long ago.

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Many of these small telescopes now come with GOTO features that allow you to select an object to view from an attached handset and the telescope will automatically slew to that feature in the sky. What the ads tend to forget to mention is that in order to use this facility, the telescope must be correctly set up and aligned beforehand.

Many scopes, unfortunately, lie gathering dust in corners and wardrobes because their owners couldn't figure out how to use the thing. It's not their fault - better, and simpler, instructions should be supplied with the telescopes. But for those who can work with such an instrument, a wealth of celestial objects are available for viewing that would be quite difficult to find otherwise.


GoTo Telescopes

Some old hands in astronomy societies have welcomed the new technology openly, others have decried its introduction as it stops newcomers from learning their way around the skies using star hopping. In some ways, they see that there must be a little pain in finding an object before you can have the pleasure of viewing it. I suppose it's a bit like the difference between being bussed to Machu Pichu or going on a five-hour hike up the mountain to see it. Which would you choose? If the hike is your cup-of-tea, then star-hopping is for you.

Personally, I think the introduction of GoTo Mounts has been a very positive development and has made the hidden beauty of the night sky accessible to many more people. If you've bought a small telescope with an integrated GOTO mount yourself, but are unsure of how to use it or the best objects to view, go along to your local astronomy society or club and ask their help. They'll be only too willing to lend a helping hand.

Read the Choosing a Telescope article if you'd like to know more about the different types of telescope that are available and what might best suit your needs.

Eyepieces


Explore Scientific 34mm 68 Degree Series Argon Purged 125 Telescope Eyepiece
Explore Scientific 34mm 68 Degree Series Argon Purged 125 Telescope Eyepiece

$109.00
28d 13h 24m remaining
Baader 125  2 Hyperion Modular Eyepiece 8mm
Baader 125 2 Hyperion Modular Eyepiece 8mm

$99.00
28d 12h 22m remaining
Explore Scientific 11mm ES 82 Argon Purged Waterproof 125 Eyepiece
Explore Scientific 11mm ES 82 Argon Purged Waterproof 125 Eyepiece

$99.00
28d 12h 19m remaining
125 HD 4 10 23mm Wide Angle 62 Aspheric Telescope Eyepieces Set For Astronomy
125 HD 4 10 23mm Wide Angle 62 Aspheric Telescope Eyepieces Set For Astronomy

$22.99
26d 6h 35m remaining
Tele Vue telescope refractor cassegrain eyepiece 125 2x barlow with caps 1998
Tele Vue telescope refractor cassegrain eyepiece 125 2x barlow with caps 1998

$16.50 (8 Bids)
5d 23h 28m remaining
Tele Vue telescope refractor cassegrain eyepiece 125 15mm plossl w cap JAPAN
Tele Vue telescope refractor cassegrain eyepiece 125 15mm plossl w cap JAPAN

$36.00 (10 Bids)
6d 23h 7m remaining
2 inch 18mm Super Wide Konig XL Eyepiece 65 degree
2 inch 18mm Super Wide Konig XL Eyepiece 65 degree

$59.77
25d 17h 12m remaining
BW Optik Ultrawide 30mm 2 eyepiece
BW Optik Ultrawide 30mm 2 eyepiece

$20.50 (3 Bids)
7d 9h 46m remaining
Celestron 5mm X Cel Eyepiece Fully Multi Coated
Celestron 5mm X Cel Eyepiece Fully Multi Coated

$20.50 (3 Bids)
2d 3h 31m remaining

More eyepieces here...


Eyepieces

You should have a selection of eyepieces to use with your telescope to allow close-up views or wide-field views. Planets require small diameter eyepieces to see surface detail whereas larger subjects, like the Pleiades and other large star clusters require wide-field views. Pretty much any eyepiece can be used to get a good view of the Moon or close-up views of it.

Eyepieces range from about 3mm to 40mm (i.e. the glass in them, not the diameter of the eyepiece itself!) and come in three fittings: 0.965", 1.25" and 2" (for high-end telescopes). The 0.965" fitting is seldom used these days but older telescopes may have taken eyepieces of this size. There are also different types of eyepiece: Plossl, Erfle, Kellner, Orthoscopic, wide-angle, etc. The magnification an eyepiece provides depends on the focal length of your telescope - divide the telescope focal length by the eyepiece size to get the magnification. A typical refractor has a focal length of about 900mm. A 26mm eyepiece would provide a magnification of 34x with this scope. Used with a telescope with a 2000mm focal length, the magnification is 77x.

There's another feature of eyepieces called the Field of View. Basically, this is how big an area of sky is seen through the eyepiece. The bigger the field of view, the more can be seen. How much of the sky is seen depends on the eyepiece diameter and the focal length of the telescope. Wide-angle eyepieces (82 degrees field of view, for example) tend to be quite expensive. Average eyepieces, such as Plossls, have about a 50 degree field of view.

Binoculars


ORION MINI GIANT 9x63 ASTRONOMY BINOCULARS FULLY MULTICOATED BAK 4 PRISMS
ORION MINI GIANT 9x63 ASTRONOMY BINOCULARS FULLY MULTICOATED BAK 4 PRISMS

$119.00
14d 13h 37m remaining
Celestron SkyMaster 25X100 Astro Binoculars Astronomy Binoculars
Celestron SkyMaster 25X100 Astro Binoculars Astronomy Binoculars

$305.00
24d 5h 58m remaining
Day Night 180x100 Military Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping+Case
Day Night 180x100 Military Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping+Case

$35.99
8d 4h 9m remaining
Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15x70 Astronomy Binoculars
Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15x70 Astronomy Binoculars

$76.99
26d 9h 32m remaining
100x180 High Power Military Binoculars Day Night BAK4 Optics Hunting Camping+Bag
100x180 High Power Military Binoculars Day Night BAK4 Optics Hunting Camping+Bag

$35.99
1d 8h 46m remaining
Day Night 180x100 Military Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping+Case
Day Night 180x100 Military Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping+Case

$27.79
13h 41m remaining
100X180 Binoculars with Night Vision BAK4 Prism High Power Waterproof
100X180 Binoculars with Night Vision BAK4 Prism High Power Waterproof

$35.99
8d 14h 27m remaining
SANS  STREIFFE 994 7X50 SUPER MARINER EXTRA WIDE ANGLE BINOCULARJAPAN
SANS STREIFFE 994 7X50 SUPER MARINER EXTRA WIDE ANGLE BINOCULARJAPAN

$140.00
12d 3h 13m remaining
10X25 Binoculars with Night Vision BAK4 Prism High Power Waterproof
10X25 Binoculars with Night Vision BAK4 Prism High Power Waterproof

$28.89
25d 14h 1m remaining

More astronomy binoculars here...


Astronomy Binoculars

While this discussion has centered mostly on telescopes, binoculars have a role to play in astronomy as well. A quality pair of binoculars costs less than a telescope and is a good entry point for someone familiarising themselves with the sky. They don't offer the same magnifications as a telescope (but magnification isn't everything) but they do show a much wider field of view which makes it easier to navigate across the sky. Because of this wider field of view, you also get to see the 'big' picture. And, because you're using both eyes, there's less eyestrain.

You can get binocular viewers for telescopes and those who use them (even though they cost a few hundred dollars and you need two of every eyepiece) swear by them (rather than at them!). A typical set of binoculars will be 10x50s (front lenses 50mm across, with a 10x magnification). More powerful models are available - 20x60s are available from $150 upwards and you can get 20x80s for as little as $215.

These binoculars are quite heavy and you can tire easily pointing them skyward for any length of time. Also, because of their higher magnification, any shake in your hands will also be magnified and stars will dart around in the view. For long-duration viewing, you'd be advised to get a tripod and a binocular tripod adapter which lets you securely mount the binoculars on it.

Binoculars are also great for looking at large scale celestial objects such as comets. Looking at the Moon through 20x binoculars brings it close enough to see topography but also, you'll see it in three dimensions, something lacking when looking through the eyepiece at a telescope. You can whip out a pair of binoculars much more quickly than setting up a telescope so if you have very changeable weather where you live, they might be a better option for sky viewing. Of course, you can throw a pair of binoculars into your luggage very easily and view the sky from your holiday destination with ease.